Inequality and growth and well-being – revolutions have occurred for less

Canberra is Australia’s capital city – a created city located in the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) to house the federal government and its bureaucracy. Official – data – shows that in 2013, the ACT has the highest household incomes of any state/territory, the highest household net average net worth and is heavily dependent on its wage and salary income. It is now a focus of federal government employment cuts which are forcing thousands of workers onto the unemployment queue, with little prospect of alternative employment at this stage given the general state of the economy. Over the weekend, I saw a news segment which documented the increased access of Canberrans for emergency food relief over the last 12 months. More than 10 per cent of the population in one of the highest income per capita cities in the world are below the poverty line. How can that be?
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    Posted in Economics, Politics | 1 Comment

    Saturday Quiz – December 20, 2014 – answers and discussion

    Here are the answers with discussion for yesterday’s quiz. The information provided should help you understand the reasoning behind the answers. If you haven’t already done the Quiz from yesterday then have a go at it before you read the answers. I hope this helps you develop an understanding of Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) and its application to macroeconomic thinking. Comments as usual welcome, especially if I have made an error.
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      Saturday Quiz – December 20, 2014

      Welcome to the 300th Edition of the Billy Blog Saturday Quiz. The quiz tests whether you have been paying attention over the last seven days. See how you go with the following questions. Your results are only known to you and no records are retained.
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        Friday lay day – public spending is not necessarily matched by tax revenue in the long-run

        It is my Friday lay day and that means brevity, even if that is a relative concept. I have received several E-mails lately about claims that Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) economists are zealots who overstate their case and are nothing much more than Keynesians with some fancy jargon. It is lovely how complete strangers feel it is their place to write abusive E-mails to you as if you are some sort of inanimate object. But that is not the point here. Several of these E-mails noted that a prominent Australian economist had largely dismissed MMT, despite his progressive leanings, because “it doesn’t change the basic equation that, in the long run, public expenditure is paid for by taxes”. Apparently, this criticism was made in the context of the Russian problems at present, which I may or may not deal with in another blog, depending on whether I get time to research a few things. The Russian situation is not central to my research at present and I do not have a lot of time to really delve into it. But what about this “long run” failing of MMT?
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          Posted in Friday | 29 Comments

          Central banks can sometimes generate higher inflation

          I haven’t much time today with travel commitments coming up at later. But I filed this story away earlier in the week in my ‘nonsense’ list but with a note that it contained a lesson, which would help people understand Modern Monetary Theory (MMT). The demonstration piece was written by the UK Daily Telegraph journalist Ambrose Evans-Pritchard (December 15, 2014) – Why Paul Krugman is wrong – which asserts a number of things about the effectiveness of fiscal policy (or the lack of it this case) and the overwhelming effectiveness of monetary policy. Indeed, apart from trying to one-up Paul Krugman, the substantive claim of the article is that the difference between the poor performance of the Eurozone and the recoveries in the US and to a lesser extent the UK is not because of the fiscal policy choices each nation/bloc made. This is articulated in a haze of confusion and misconceived discussion. So here is the lesson.
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            Posted in Economics, Eurozone, UK Economy, US economy | 18 Comments

            Alleged Greek growth could be an illusion

            It seems that Greece is still in trouble with the Athens Stock Exchange share prices tumbling rather abruptly in recent weeks. In the last 6 days or so the Athens Stock Exchange Composite Index has plunged by around 19 per cent on the back of growing political tension and the strong likelihood that the pro-austerity, Troika surrender monkeys in power at present will be tossed out and a new dialogue with Europe will begin. The snap election call has spooked the markets it seems. But I have also been puzzling about (read: been deeply suspicious of) the growth narrative that is being peddled about Greece by the European Commission and the IMF. There remain unsolved puzzles about the third-quarter 2014 Greek national accounts data, which is another way of saying they don’t quite add up. It may be that the alleged real GDP growth of 0.7 per cent was a statistical artifact – the case of incomes falling less slowly than prices. The evidence certainly suggests that is the case. That is what this blog is about.
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              Posted in Eurozone | 14 Comments

              Australia – fiscal policy outcomes signal a failed government

              The deranged individual who held the people hostage in Sydney over the last 24 hours wasn’t an Islamic State terrorist despite what the commercial news frenzy tried to tell us. He was a deranged individual. But while the news frenzy was as deplorable as his act (see this more sober account), it did one other thing – it kept Joseph Pinstripe Bulgington Hockey off the front page. Who is JPB Hockey? The Australian Treasurer and yesterday he released the Federal Government’s – Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook – which was comedic, hypocritical and demonstrates that we haven’t come very far since the days we believed the world was flat. The hostage drama in Sydney meant JPB had to take back stage and the 16 ridiculous pages that the News Limited rag the Daily Telegraph in Sydney devoted to what they called an “attack by the Islamic State”, effectively choked the coverage of the MYEFO. Some saving grace.
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                Posted in Economics | 10 Comments

                Solving tax avoidance will not cure the Eurozone of stagnation

                There was an article in the French-language edition of Huffington Post last last week (December 10, 2014) – Sans Europe fiscale, le projet européen est condamné (Without taxes, the European project is doomed) – written by the President of the French Socialist delegation in the European Parliament, Pervenche Berès. Her committee role as a member of the EP includes the Committee on Economic and Monetary Affaris. She has been active in the debate over tax avoidance in the Parliament. Her substantive claim in the article is that the European Project, by which she includes retention of the Eurozone, will fail unless national governments work out how to raise more taxes to balance their fiscal positions. The article qualifies for inclusion in my – Friends list this – series. Although I accept it could be reasonably argued that the French socialists gave up any pretensions to progressive agendas some time ago and could reasonably be included among the groups we would consider to be neo-liberal. But that issue, while important, is not the topic of this blog.
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                  Posted in Eurozone | 14 Comments

                  Saturday Quiz – December 13, 2014 – answers and discussion

                  Here are the answers with discussion for yesterday’s quiz. The information provided should help you work out why you missed a question or three! If you haven’t already done the Quiz from yesterday then have a go at it before you read the answers. I hope this helps you develop an understanding of Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) and its application to macroeconomic thinking. Comments as usual welcome, especially if I have made an error.
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                    Saturday Quiz – December 13, 2014

                    Welcome to the Billy Blog Saturday Quiz. The quiz tests whether you have been paying attention over the last seven days. See how you go with the following questions. Your results are only known to you and no records are retained.
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